HILL AIR FORCE BASE — With only six days’ advance notice, the 570th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron is taking on an additional workload that will help the Marine Corps.
The squadron, which maintains A-model F-35 Lightning II aircraft, will focus on modifying two B-model F-35s for the next five months to help the Marines receive their initial operational capability. The Marines landed at Hill AFB on Feb. 2, and work began the next day.
And while it sounds like work on the two services’ aircraft should be the same, there is a major difference — the Air Force model is designed for conventional runway take-off and landing, while the Marines do a short take-off and vertical landing.
“The work is nothing I would call routine,” said Greg Hoffman, 570 AMXS director. “As a minimum, we’ll do 15 major modifications on the airplane — totaling just about 12,000 hours spread over 133 calendar days. We need to have those airplanes finished and heading home by July 1.”
“It’s definitely going to require some sacrifice from a lot of people to make that happen, but it sends the message that no matter how difficult the task, the folks here at Hill AFB are up to the challenge. The F-35 has a bright future ahead of it once it gets through all these hurdles.”
Assisting the 570th will be personnel from Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s original contractor, and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, North Carolina, the only other depot where the F-35 receives maintenance. Additional support will come from Yuma MCAS, Arizona, where the operational squadron is based.
“Our planners worked a long time to build the critical path for the aircraft and juggling the various challenges,” Hoffman said. “F-35 support equipment and tooling are limited and spread between Cherry Point, Yuma, the test sites, and Hill. To be successful, we have to carefully sequence every operation we’re going to do to ensure the equipment and the workloads align.
“Even with all the challenges this new workload presents, the F-35 team, including Ogden, Lockheed Martin, the Joint Program Office and Marine Corps, have lined up to give this extraordinary effort the greatest possibility of success to ensure these aircraft are mission-capable so they can continue to maintain our nation’s freedom.”